The etymology of the word heaven is traced to Old English ‘heofon’ which meant ‘Home of God’. Though the earlier meaning of ‘heofon’ was said to be ‘sky’, in the later days of Old English ‘hefon’ was used more in the sense of ‘Home of God’. 

The origin of ‘heofon’ itself is not clear, though suggested roots include Proto Germanic ‘himin’ which itself is said to have originated from the PIE word ‘kem’ which meant ‘cover’.

A more likely source of the word ‘heofon’ is its Sanskrit cognate ‘vyoman’ (व्योमन् ). ‘Vyoman’ has many meanings, which include sky, space, preservation, wind or air, ether and heaven. In the Rig Vedic texts ‘Vyoman’ is used more in the sense of ‘that which is celestial’, than in the context of ‘heaven’ for which a more appropriate translation is ‘swarga’.

The Sanskrit ‘Vyoman’ is derived from the root word ‘av’ (अव्) which means ‘to protect’, the prefix ‘vi’ (वि) indicates vastness, and the suffix ‘manin’ denotes ‘making room or space’. The literal meaning of the word ‘Vyoman’ therfore is ‘that which protects by providing space’.

Calvert Watkins, Professor of Linguistics at Harvard University is of the opinion that ‘heaven’ from the PIE ‘akman’ which means ‘stone’ or ‘sharp stone’ therefore taking ‘heaven’ to mean the ‘stony vault of heaven’ but that sounds a little forced.

Suggested Links:
1. The Secret of the Vedas
2. Akasha, Kha and Vyoman
3. Kalatattvakosa


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